Directed by: John Ford
Starring: James Stewart, John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles
Genres: Drama, Romance, Western
Question: When Ranse confronts Liberty and reaches for the dropped gun, there appears to be something written at Ranse's feet in the dirt. What is it?
Chosen answer: At first glance, it looks like the word "LEFT" in large, widely-spaced lettering. It's very unlikely that this would be a blocking cue, telling Jimmy Stewart to move left (which he does from that point). That's not the way blocking cues are done, for one thing, and a seasoned actor such as Jimmy Stewart wouldn't need such a cue. It's also very unlikely that it's a warning message from John Wayne who is hiding in an alley across the street, on Stewart's right. John Wayne didn't want anyone to know that he actually killed Valance, so he wouldn't alert Jimmy Stewart with any messages scrawled in the street. All hypothesis aside, it's probably just footprints in the dirt, an illusion of light and shadow.
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When John Wayne has his back turned and tells the newspaper man "print that and he will kill you sure as hell", you can tell by the side of John Wayne's face that he isn't really saying anything.
Liberty Valance's last poker hand is, appropriately, aces and eights.
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